The Impact of Individual Food Histories on People’s Lives
by Christian Ortiz
The 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, based on Roald Dahl’s beloved tale, tells the story of a young boy named Charlie Bucket who grew up in an impoverished family. Despite this, Charlie is determined to find a golden ticket in a candy bar from Willy Wonka, a famous chocolatier and candy inventor, which earns him a trip to Wonka’s amazing candy factory. As we all know, Charlie stumbles across some money in the street and is able to afford a candy bar where he finds the last of the five golden tickets. He chooses to take his Grandpa Joe, who used to work in the factory, with him on his day trip to tour the amazing facility. The significance of candy is apparent as the film highlights how it has impacted each of characters differently and why it is important to each of them.
The Bucket family lives in a small, beat-up house with their entire extended family. Mr. Bucket hardly makes enough money at the toothpaste factory to put a meal on the table for the family. Each day, they have cabbage and potatoes for lunch and cabbage soup for dinner. Mr. Bucket even jokes to water down the soup more when they are on a tight budget. Despite their unfortunate circumstances, food unites the family. They sit down and eat each meal together, and enjoy the occasional Wonka chocolate bar together – a treat when they can afford it. Further, the Bucket family is brought together by Mr. Wonka’s golden ticket competition, pooling their money together for Charlie to purchase more chocolate bars in hopes Charlie could fulfill his dream.
During Mr. Wonka’s competition, the film follows each of the five children who win the golden tickets, and we discover what candy means to each of them and their families. Veruca Salt, for example, has her father open a warehouse and hire hundreds of employees to unwrap candy bars. Another boy, Augustus Gloop, simply eats so much candy that he eventually happens upon a golden ticket. Lastly, Mike Teavee somehow solves a formula to discover a golden ticket, but he has little interest in the candy and even the fact that he won. The film compares and contrasts how candy plays a role in each of the children’s lives – from insane search parties to complete indifference. Some people are extremely motivated by their love or nostalgia associated with certain foods, like Veruca, while others do not have the same connection with it, like Mike Teavee. This difference in how people treat food is derived from a variety of tastes and preferences as well as wealth – similar to how many people treat food today. Wealthy people are more willing and able to spend money to explore unique food and try nice restaurants. However, even if poorer people may like certain foods or want to go a specific restaurant, they may not be able to afford it. Veruca Salt had the means to search thousands of candy bars for a golden ticket, but Charlie’s family could hardly afford to purchase one candy bar.
When Mr. Wonka brings the guests in to his factory, a series of flashbacks reveals Mr. Wonka’s candy history. His father was the most well-known dentist in his home town, and for that reason, would not allow him to eat candy at all. On Halloween, his father let him go and collect candy, but dumped it all in the fire when he returned home. Depicted in the photo, young Charlie went back to the fire and found a piece in the ashes that was not completely burnt and ate his first piece of chocolate. He absolutely loved it. Because of his family and how they treated candy, Mr. Wonka was motivated to open his brilliant factory. This emphasizes how family traditions and regulations regarding food, or candy in this case, can affect each person for their whole life. His father’s opinion of candy motivates his whole career. Mr. Wonka has these extremely nostalgic candy moments while giving the tour of his factory, showing how even the lack of a specific food can create nostalgic and memorable moments. Further, the cinematography reinforced Mr. Wonka’s passion for candy through the color. In his factory, especially in the room with chocolate waterfall, all the colors are extremely bright. All of the candy looks extremely appetizing and colorful, and this theme is consistent throughout his factory. However, in contrast, during Mr. Wonka’s flashbacks, the colors are extremely dark and neutral. The image above depicts how they used a low-key effect to emphasize a tougher, darker part of his life versus the happier mood the colors infer when he is in his beloved factory.
Mr. Wonka explains that he began having these nostalgic moments more and more often, and one day, when he was getting his haircut, he realized he was getting old when he discovered a grey hair. Because of this, he released the golden tickets to find someone to hand down his factory to, and he chose Charlie. Mr. Wonka has a true passion for candy and sharing it with people, and he wants to hand down the tradition to a younger generation, just like many people do with cooking. After observing how each child views candy, Mr. Wonka realized that he most closely identified with Charlie’s story. Much like Mr. Wonka’s flashbacks, Charlie’s life is depicted with dark colors and an overall melancholy tone. Understanding that they have similar candy histories and a mutual passion for candy, he decided that he was best fit for the position. When watching the film critically, it is evident that Tim Burton intentionally told the candy history or background for each character to help build to the conclusion of the film where Mr. Wonka decides who is bet fit to adopt his brilliant factory.